Skip to main content

Your browser is out of date, and unable to use many of the features of this website

Please upgrade your browser.


This website requires cookies. Your browser currently has cookies disabled.

Scheme return

How to complete and submit a scheme return for defined contribution (DC), defined benefit (DB) pension schemes and those offering mixed benefits (hybrid).

This page includes general information and answers to top queries about the scheme return. Find additional information you'll need in order to complete your scheme return in:

We use the scheme return to gather information about pension schemes. We use the data gathered to help maintain our register of schemes and to identify schemes where there’s a risk or potential risk to members’ benefits. We also use this information to calculate annual levy charges. We share the information we collect with the Pension Protection Fund and the Pension Tracing Service.

Top scheme return queries

The scheme return email doesn’t include scheme details, so I don’t know which scheme it's for

This email is to inform you that it is time to start preparing for your scheme return. A scheme return notice will then be issued separately which will provide you with the details of the scheme it relates to.

Although this email does not provide full scheme details, it indicates the scheme type such us defined contribution (DC), defined benefit (DB) or public service.

Depending on the type of scheme will determine how often you will receive a scheme return.

A DC scheme with between two and 11 members will complete a scheme return every three years.

A DC scheme with 12 or more members will complete a scheme return every year.

DB and public service schemes, regardless of the membership size, will complete a scheme return every year.

My scheme is wound up but I’ve received a scheme return

You do not have to complete a scheme return if your scheme is wound up.

You will need to update your records with the date the scheme was wound up on Exchange via the initial questions. If you have answered these initial questions incorrectly, please contact us.

I’m getting an error message when entering zero contributions

If you have classed members as ‘active’ and inputting zero contributions then the system will show this error message.

You may wish to review the help text exchange help icon located next to the question, on the scheme return which provides a definition for each member category.

I don’t know my PSTR number

The Pension Scheme Tax Reference (PSTR) number is not a mandatory field on the scheme return, and can be left blank if you do not know your PSTR number.

If you would like to find out what your PSTR number is, for future reference, please contact HM Revenue and Customs Pension Scheme Services on 0300 123 1079 (option 5 then option 2).

When you need to complete your scheme return

The due date for your scheme return is stated in the notice sent to you by TPR. You can also find it in Exchange.

Most scheme types are required to submit a scheme return every year. If your scheme is an occupational / DC scheme with less than 12 members, it's every three years.

The table below outlines how often each scheme type is currently requested to submit a completed scheme return. This information is provided only as a guide and there may be times when TPR will send out the scheme return notice outside of the date range. Schemes must ensure that the scheme return is completed and submitted to TPR in accordance with the date set out in the notice, whether it is requested within the date range set out below or not.

TPR may decide to change the frequency of the scheme return but no more frequently than once every year and no less frequently than once every three years (or five years if the scheme has less than five members).

Scheme type Scheme members Frequency
Occupational / DB 2 or more Every year
Occupational / DC 12 or more Every year
Occupational / DC 2 to 11 Once every 3 years
Personal pension 2 or more Every year
Public service 2 or more Every year

DB Schemes are sent from December onwards, all other types of scheme returns are sent from August onwards each year.

We aim to give you six weeks to complete and submit your scheme return. If you are unable to complete the scheme return by the due date stated in the scheme return notice contact us.

I don’t know the market value of assets

The market value of scheme assets can be obtained from the schemes provider. We would suggest contacting the providers as soon as possible as they may take some time to gather this information.

How to complete your scheme return

It's the legal responsibility of the trustees (or managers of the scheme) to complete a scheme return, unless the number of scheme members falls below two or the scheme has been wound up.

If you fail to complete the scheme return by the date specified in the scheme return notice this is a breach of the Pensions Act 2004 and could lead to you being fined.

You can complete your scheme return using Exchange, our online service.

Once you have collected the information you need the online process should take you less than one hour approximately.

Select the help icon in Exchange for further guidance to a particular scheme return question. You can view all the help text for scheme return questions without having to login to Exchange. Some of the help text names may appear more than once due to the way Exchange manages information. 

See further information on how to use Exchange, including how to associate to a registered scheme.

Late scheme returns

The scheme return notice contains a 'due date' which cannot be changed. There isn't an automatic penalty for not submitting the scheme return by the due date. However, a trustee who's 'failed to take all reasonable steps to secure compliance' may be liable to a penalty.

If you're waiting for information from a third party (eg an insurer), you should keep pressing them for the information. As a trustee, you're responsible for completing the scheme return.

If the scheme has fully commenced winding-up and you expect the process to be completed shortly, you do not need to fully complete the scheme return. Provided that the scheme is wound up before the deadline for the completion of the scheme return.

We're committed to helping trustees meet their statutory requirement. If there's anything we can do to help, or if your scheme return submission is delayed beyond the due date, please contact us.

Overdue notice

We automatically issue an overdue notice if the scheme return is not submitted one week after the due date. We will consider taking further action against trustees who are non-compliant where this is appropriate and proportionate.

The notice is sent to the contact listed in our records at the time it's issued. So if you have updated your scheme return contact since the original notice was issued, an overdue notice is sent to the new contact.

The overdue notice has all the information you need to login to Exchange to complete the scheme return. You don’t need to have the original scheme return notice to complete the scheme return.

What information you need

To enable you to complete the scheme return, it may be useful to have the following documents to hand:

  • scheme trust deed and rules
  • last actuarial valuation (DB schemes only)
  • most recent report and scheme accounts

Your scheme's advisers will be able to help you obtain any additional information you may need to provide us with.

Before the return is issued you can:

  • Check your files to ensure you have the scheme’s governing documentation, most recent scheme report and accounts, and any recent statements of the scheme assets / contributions.
  • Check you have access to the scheme details through Exchange. If not, a trustee may need to contact us to request access or have access granted to a third party.
  • Check with the scheme’s key personnel (eg trustees, managers) for any changes in their contact details. If there have been any changes you should update the scheme registration immediately to ensure the scheme return notice is sent to the correct address.
  • Review the DC scheme return example form or DB scheme return example form to identify any further details you may need regarding your scheme.
  • If applicable, request any missing information from your scheme provider, insurance broker, IFA or accountant. Please note that most insurers will take at least 10 working days to provide scheme information, and this can be significantly longer during peak times.

We regularly review the data that we request from you as part of the scheme return. We only collect information that we use to maintain the register of pension schemes or is reasonably required for us to exercise our regulatory functions in relation to the scheme.

When you must notify us

You are legally required to notify us of any changes to your registrable information. This includes changes to the following details:

  • name and / or address of the scheme
  • employer or trustee
  • scheme's status
  • number of scheme members

You can access your scheme information via Exchange at any time to update information that has changed. Keeping your scheme information up to date will also help you complete your scheme return more quickly and efficiently.

If you have entered information for the wrong scheme log back into Exchange and amend the information. If you're unable to do this please contact us

Schemes and members

The benefit type of your scheme will be one of the following three types:

  • Defined benefit (DB) - offers a pension based on how much a member earns and how long they are an employed member of the pension scheme.
  • Defined contribution (DC) - offers a pension based on value of the fund that has accrued as a result of contributions that have been made together with the investment returns.
  • Mixed benefits (hybrid) scheme - a combination of DC and DB.

Please refer to your scheme trust deed and rules which should indicate the benefit structure of your scheme.

Broadly, there are three types of members which are:

  • Active members - members of an occupational pension scheme who are at present accruing benefits under that scheme in respect of current service.
  • Deferred members - members of an occupational scheme who have accrued benefits under that scheme relating to their past service and who are no longer active members but have not yet retired. These members may continue to work for the employer, or have left the employment of the employer associated with the scheme. This category of membership will remain until every individual in that category either transfers their pension entitlement to an alternative pension arrangement or starts to take their pension entitlement as a retirement pension.
  • Pensioner members - members who are entitled to payment of a retirement benefit that is payable by the trustees or managers of the pension scheme in respect of their pensionable service. This will include individual annuities in payment where the annuity is written in the name of the trustees or managers of the scheme. A member who has taken their pension entitlement by purchasing an annuity in their own name is not classed a pensioner member.

HMRC scheme return

The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) scheme return is entirely separate to our scheme return. We collect data for different purposes to HMRC. A scheme return is also separate from the duty to complete a declaration of compliance for automatic enrolment.

After you submit your scheme return

Once you have submitted your scheme return you will receive a confirmation email (the email is sent to the Exchange user account from which the scheme return was submitted).

You are legally required to notify us of any changes to their registrable information. This includes changes to the following details:

  • name and / or address of the scheme
  • employer or trustee
  • scheme's status
  • number of scheme members

You can access your scheme information via Exchange at any time to update any information that has changed. Keeping your scheme information up to date will also help you complete your scheme return more quickly and efficiently.